Nick Grotti says it’s OK to sometimes question your coach, but you may find out coach knows best.

He went into his freshman season for the Millville High School baseball team playing shortstop but soon found himself playing left field. He had never played the outfield, and he questioned coach Roy Hallenbeck’s decision.

“But it helped me grow up,” Grotti, 17, said Thursday.

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Grotti, who has been back at his shortstop position the past three seasons, learned a lot more about baseball. He has also become a pretty versatile player, which helped him earn the opportunity to play at the NCAA Division II level next year.

Grotti said Thursday he will attend West Virginia Wesleyan College on a nearly full athletic scholarship next year. He’s in the process of finalizing the paperwork with the school and planned to sign this weekend.

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“It has a homelike feel,” Grotti said of the Buckhannon, West Virginia, campus. “The whole town has it. It’s a small private school. Eighty percent of the staff are alumni, and that really stuck with me.”

A future Bobcat

The Bobcats, who play in the Mountain East Conference, were 15-22 (12-8) through Friday. Randy Tenney is in his 27th season as manager and fifth as the college’s athletic director.

Grotti said he wants to study exercise science and then enter its master’s program for physical therapy, the career he plans to pursue.

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Grotti is one of Millville’s three captains this season. He’s a four-year starter and can play anywhere in the infield and outfield.

“He’s going to hit at the next level,” Hallenbeck said Thursday. “I thought that ever since he came into our program as a freshman. He’s having a nice year for us. He’s closing in on 100 hits for his career.”

Baseball isn’t the only sport in which Grotti has excelled for the Thunderbolts.

Grotti is a two-time first-team Press All-Star in soccer and finished his career with 67 goals. Heading into his senior season, he wasn’t sure whether he was going to play soccer or baseball in college.

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For most of his life, his focus fluctuated from one sport to the other.

“I started losing the love I had for soccer toward the end of my senior season,” Grotti said, “and I realized that in the last couple years that my love and feel for baseball has been growing, and I realized I wanted to focus on baseball.”

Millville is 6-2 entering Friday and ranked No. 7 in The Press Elite 11. Grotti has been one of the Thunderbolts’ top hitters as they look to contend for a sectional title.

Dickinson College senior Rick Hopkins continued his strong baseball season last week.

But his ability to lead increases his value. Grotti shares captain duties with Buddy Kennedy and Ryan McIsaac, and Hallenbeck says Grotti is the most vocal.

He’s also helping coach 13-under baseball in Pittsgrove Township, Salem County. Hallenbeck said the youth coaching has added to Grotti’s own growth as a player.

“Nick wears his heart on his sleeve,” Hallenbeck said. “He’s an emotional kid. I think the other kids gravitate toward that. As he goes, we go, and he’s real important to us.”



Twitter @ACPress_Russo

I graduated from Rowan University in 2011 where I studied journalism. I covered local high school and college sports at the South Jersey Times and Vineland Daily Journal. I have been a sports reporter with The Press since July of 2013

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